RICH TRADITION: “You can feel the richness of the tradition of our club in our warm, friendly atmosphere. It is inviting and welcoming. At the same time, we are very fresh and contemporary with our membership. We are current with the times.” Leslie Conover, membership and marketing director of the Trenton Country Club, is shown at the clubhouse entrance.
History is alive and well at the Trenton Country Club. At the same time, the club is current, contemporary, and up-to-date.
Established in 1897, it is located at 201 Sullivan Way in West Trenton, not far from the Mercer County Airport. Set on 110 acres, the clubhouse was once the private home of the Woodruff family, prominent both in New Jersey and in association with the then new federal government. Today, it offers an exceptionally handsome colonial-style clubhouse, surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds, including two small bridges overlooking a pond and fountain.
Originally known as “Oaklands”, a portion of the current clubhouse was built as a private home in 1808. An early owner, George Whitefield Woodruff of Trenton, established it as his summer home, after he had relocated to Georgia at the request of President John Adams to serve as U.S. District Attorney for the state of Georgia.
Eventually, after the last Woodruff descendent died, the house was rented (later purchased) by a group of area businessmen, who envisioned a country club and nine-hole golf course.
“One of the Finest”
Golf continues to be a major focus of the club today. Current members proudly note that in 1914, when additional land was acquired, James “Jimmie” Norton, a well-known golf pro and course architect, designed the 18-hole course. Mr. Norton was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, home to British Open courses, Royal Troon and Prestwick.
According to Club historian John Burne, “Trenton Country Club’s new course was touted in the local paper as ‘one of the finest in the East,’ and was played by many noteworthy golfers.’ Two-time U.S. Open champion John McDermot played here immediately after becoming the first American to win the championship with Norton. President Woodrow Wilson was a member here, and helped usher the game’s popularity into the American consciousness.”
In addition, an interesting cross-section of famous visitors, including John Jacob Astor (1901), Theodore Roosevelt (1901), John D. Rockefeller (1911), and Charlie Chaplin (1919), signed the Trenton Country Club’s leather-bound registry, either to enjoy a round of golf or to dine with colleagues in one of the club’s fine restaurants.
In the early days, the club offered golf, skeet shooting, and polo, notes general manager John Case, who has been with the club for 25 years.
“Today, in addition to golf, we have three swimming pools, five clay tennis courts, paddle tennis in winter, and a fitness center. There are golf and tennis pro shops, and we have two restaurants and a poolside snack bar.”
The club currently has a membership of 600, he adds. “Forty have been members for more than 45 years. We also have 550 kids here, who are children of members. We are very family-oriented, and we have many activities for kids.”
“Princess and Pirate”
Among these are tennis and golf camps with private, semi-private lessons, and clinics; summer camp including golf, tennis, swimming lessons, cooking, arts and crafts, group exercises, meals, and snacks. The club is part of the Princeton Area Swim & Dive Association (PASDA), and the team usually competes in six meets.
In addition, the Trenton Country Club offers baby sitting for 3-year-olds and up every Friday all year, and Tuesday through Friday during the season. Also, the annual “Princess and Pirate” party is a favorite of the younger club members.
Golf is the focus for many members, and the layout is a classic parkland course designed to use every club in the bag, challenging golfers of all levels of ability. A driving range, putting green, and separate short game area are all available. Some people like the challenge of the entire course, others enjoy the front nine, or just a few rounds, or they can come to practice, notes Mr. Case. He adds that three holes are currently undergoing renovation.
The club hosts the Capital Cup, one of the area’s premier invitational events. “This is a special qualifying event for top-notch players,” points out Leslie Conover, membership and marketing director.
Tennis players love the HAR-TRU (clay) courts — so much easier on the knees — at the club. The courts are carefully maintained daily, says Mr. Case. “We sponsor a lot of events here in connection with the National Junior Tennis League (NJTL), which was founded by Arthur Ashe to encourage and give opportunities to inner city kids to play tennis.”
In addition, in August, club members will have a chance to play with former Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander, who will hold a clinic.
Heated 6-Lane Pool
The tennis and golf pros are always on hand to help members with the finer points of their respective games, and — especially — to enjoy themselves, adds Ms. Conover.
The three-pool facility offers something for everyone: a heated six-lane pool with diving board; a 3-foot by five foot leisure pool; and a zero depth-entry baby pool, as well as playground, volley ball court, and poolside snack bar. Swimming lessons are available for all ages, and four lifeguards are always on duty.
The club’s fitness center features a variety of cardio machines, plus all the equipment needed for strength and resistance training. Personal trainers are available, and certified instructors lead group exercise classes, such as Pilates, yoga, Zumba, and more. A massage room is also nearby.
An abundance of social activities is also offered to members. Events range from elegant wine dinners to family-friendly occasions. Two restaurants offer quality cuisine. The Stockton Room features a panoramic overview of the golf course, with outside dining also available on the terrace. The low key Tavern affords members a relaxed, comfortable dining experience.
Every major holiday, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Passover, and Mother’s Day, etc. is celebrated, notes Ms. Conover. A highlight in December is the Holiday Ball, with three bands in each of the dining rooms. Another favorite evening is “Passport Night”, including a “trip around the world” with exceptional food, spirits, and themed music from 12 countries.
“We host many functions for members and non-members alike, adds Mr. Case. “Weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, business lunches, charity events, fund-raisers, showers, brunches, etc. Our ballroom holds 400.”
In addition, the club offers a book club, bridge, and wi-fi, among other amenities.
Members, who are all ages, come from Princeton and the area, as well as Pennsylvania, he notes. “We get new members all the time, and we offer three different memberships. (1) Golf, which also includes all the other sports and social activities; (2) sports: swimming, tennis, fitness center, and very limited golf; and (3) social activities only. The golf membership is the most popular, since it offers the most opportunities.
“Memberships include family, couples, and singles, and there is an application process to join. We always look forward to welcoming new members. We are the oldest continually-operated country club in the area and beyond. The quality of our food and services is outstanding, and we have exceptional loyalty from our staff members. Many have been with us for more than 25 years.
“I have to make sure that it is a wonderful day every day for the members, and to make sure they enjoy themselves,” continues Mr. Case. “I enjoy making everything work smoothly, and also meeting all the people — both staff and members. We look forward to being here for all of the members, including the next generation.”
“It’s wonderful when people come back and thank us and say how much they appreciate being here,” adds Ms. Conover. “We are presenting great opportunities for our members, and we want to continue the longevity of this historic club.”
The clubhouse is open Tuesday through Sunday. The pool is open every day during the season from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; tennis courts 6 a.m. to 11 pm., and golf from 7 a.m. until dark. (609) 883-3800 Ext.104. Website: www.trentoncc.com.